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|Fresno, Tulare County, CA||November 2, 2004 Election|
FRESNO COUNTY BUDGET (2003-2004)
By Juan ArambulaCandidate for Member of the State Assembly; District 31
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By getting our priorities straight, Fresno County will be in a stronger position to deal with future budget shortfalls. Over the past several years, California counties have received many financial blows from the State. Fresno County has demonstrated that it is possible to maintain essential services, maintain a fiscally sound position, and pass a balanced budget on time. It is time for the State to do the same.This past summer, Fresno County accomplished something the State of California has been unable to do for many years, It is our hope that by getting our priorities straight, our County will be in a stronger position to deal with future budget shortfalls. Over the past number of years, California's counties have taken many financial blows from the State in order to balance its own budget. By its example, Fresno County hopes to demonstrate it is possible to maintain essential services, maintain a fiscally sound position, and pass a balanced budget on time. It is time for the State to do the same. pass a budget that is balanced and on time. While we do not expect to be congratulated for doing the job we were elected to do, it is important to note what elected public officials can do when they conduct the public's business in an open, reasonable and civil manner. Partisan politics and special interests played no part in our public hearings and budget deliberations.
Make no mistake, however. There were many sacrifices and real cuts that had to be made in the County budget. None of us on the Board wanted to make over $70 million in cuts, but we came to the realization that this was going to be a difficult budget year, full of lots of difficult choices. As a group, my colleagues and I worked cooperatively to make reasoned and necessary reductions in County expenditures.
Like many of the Valley's families who are struggling to make ends meet during tough economic times, we had to prioritize and make common-sense decisions about what is most important. We are a tough people and we will survive. According to folk wisdom, "tough times don't last forever, but tough people do."
We worked hard to ensure the County continues providing essential services in areas ranging from public safety to parks and libraries to veterans' benefits. Because there is nothing more important to a County than the well-being of its residents, we tried to ensure needed services are provided to the most vulnerable, the young, the infirm and the elderly. Children and Family Services was funded to the best of our ability, as will services for cases of elder abuse and collection of child support payments. In addition, because crime robs us of our peace of mind and sense of security, we ensured the entire justice system, including the Sheriff, District Attorney and Probation Departments, was funded in a fair and equitable manner.
The County had been preparing itself for the past year, anticipating this year would be a difficult one. By keeping over 700 positions vacant, and setting aside prudent reserves, we were able to selectively restore positions slated for elimination, primarily in the District Attorney's Office and Probation Department, as well as services for neglected and abused children. Even so, we maintained adequate reserves for contingencies and unforeseen emergencies, at the same levels as this past year. In addition, we set aside an additional two million dollars, in case the State reduced our funds even further.
The County will continue seeking ways to make our operations even more efficient and cost effective. Where we find abuses, like the illegal retirement calculations that are costing the County exorbitant amounts of money, rest assured that the County will take all necessary steps to make sure these abusive practices are stopped.
The County also recognizes that continued investments in the area of economic development will pay long-term dividends, by helping to reduce our region's chronic double-digit unemployment, and by reducing reliance on public assistance. We will also continue funding early prevention and intervention programs for youth, in the belief that by turning around the lives of troubled youngsters at an early age we will save ourselves more trouble and expense later on. It is worth mentioning that Fresno County recently received the highest grade statewide for its use of early prevention and intervention funds.
There are no easy answers in this year's budget. It is much easier to lead when times are good and when there is plenty of money to go around. Challenging times like these, however, are the true test of leadership, discipline and fortitude.
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